“My Sweetpea is home for good.”
While Zadie’s mom thought it was just Christmas vacation and shared custody as usual, Zadie and her Dad knew she was never going back. Maybe her mom wouldn’t even notice she was missing. She hadn’t when Zadie had left. Zadie had called and used her saved tenth birthday money to pay for her own cab, while her mother slept. So maybe, if Zadie just never got back on the plane, her mom would keep sleeping through that too.
Just the existence of her Dad, just knowing he was alive in the world-- something about the idea of him, had always brought Zadie to the verge of tears. She wanted to hug him forever. She wanted to tell him everything.
But then she was silent when they joined her stepmother, Alice, in her dad’s beat up silver car. Alice sat stiffly upright, looking uncomfortable or embarrassed—Zadie couldn’t tell.
“You look just like your father,” said Alice. “But everyone probably tells you that.”
“Yeah,” said Zadie.
All the way from the airport to the house, Zadie sat quietly in the back, listening to the rattle of the muffler and waiting for one of them to talk.